In the last two and half months since moving from South Florida to Oviedo, I have been shocked, amazed, and left speechless (not easily done) at the people in my new home town.
I am used to cashiers that never look up as they scan your items while saying to the register “Did you find everything you needed today?” You get a distinct feeling that they are merely going through the motions of what the manager has required them to say. So, I am shocked at the genuine interest of the cashiers at Publix when they look me right in the eyes and ask me – “How has your day been going?” Or “Do you have any special plans for the rest of your day/weekend?” And they truly want to know!
No longer in prayer for safety as I back out of a busy shopping center parking space, I am amazed that people will wait for you rather than hit the gas pedal to speed up so that don’t have to waste a minute of their day.
I am left speechless as I wander the isles of Winn Dixie, Publix, Ace Hardware, and Walgreens where employees approach me to ask if they can help me find anything and then actually walk with me to the product!
I was sharing this with a friend back in South Florida who had recently spent an hour at the local Costco. She said it looked like Christmas in July with the store packed with shoppers piling their baskets to overflowing with “must haves”. The checkout lines were as long as the 5 hour wait time for the Frozen ride at Epcot! As she stood in her line, other members were trying to get by to access the isle blocked so she moved alongside the lady in front of her to allow passage. The lady turned to my friend and with an ice cold voice told her that “the line is behind me”. To which my friend explained that she was merely being courteous to other shoppers. The woman ignored her response and turned her back to my friend. While my friend waited her turn she struck up a conversation with a gentleman behind her. The man behind him had only two items to purchase and so both she and the man behind her suggested that he go ahead of them. He thanked them profusely, shocked at the kindness of two strangers.
We shared our sadness at the fact that we have gotten so immune to the inconsiderate behavior of people that we accept it as our “norm”. When people are hateful we say nothing and when people are courteous and kind we find ourselves at a loss for words.
Somewhere along the line we stopped building relationships with people of all walks of life, ages, and ethnicity and only acknowledged those that are like us. It is not just the much needed pharmacist and the health care professionals that we should pay attention to; but the cashier, the restaurant wait staff and the bag boy that deserves our kindness. We are not islands unto ourselves and everyone we meet in our day lends color and vibrancy to a world that is already fraught with pain and suffering. Each encounter can be a catalyst in changing our view from partly cloudy to rays of sunshine.
Christ calls us to look for ways that we might help one another on toward love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Philippians 1:3-5 tell us “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
This is not to say that everyone in south Florida is mean-spirited or that only kind people live in Oviedo. Thad and I lived in a South Florida neighborhood of friendly, kind and caring people. Our church and its members actively showed God’s love in and outside the church walls. However, South Florida has grown and become so crowded that its fast pace and transient society lends itself to being less caring about others and more about ones self.
Oviedo still has that small town atmosphere where there’s an honest interest in knowing who you are and seeing you as a person and not just as another endless mass of nonentity beings to be dealt with. The people of Oviedo have made me want to be a better person, leaving me lighter in spirit and kinder in heart because of my encounters with them. Oviedo is a little slice of what God planned for this world and I feel blessed that He has led us to it. But Oviedo is growing and people like us are moving here because of its great schools and neighborhoods. So it’s up to all of us that we continue as God calls us to be – good and kind to one another; loving each other as God loves each of us and as we love God.
So it begins with me. Will you join me in passing it on?